Thursday, October 2, 2014

(142) The Ohio Valley Symphony: 25 Years a Jewel on the Banks of the Ohio


*Previously published  in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune October 1, 2014 and on line at
*Also published in the on line newspaper, Gallia Hometown Herald October 2, 2014 at

        This Saturday October 4 at 8 pm the sounds of violins, cellos, bass violins, flutes, harps, trumpets, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, French horns, trombones, tubas, percussion, piano, etc. of The Ohio Valley Symphony will reverberate through the beautifully restored vintage 1895 opera house complex, known today as the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre.  The best architects of today would have a difficult time designing a theater with the near perfect acoustics of this relic in the heart of Gallipolis, Ohio.  This 25th Anniversary Concert, the first of the season, will feature the soloist Jay Campbell with his Cello.

          Under the leadership of Lora Snow, the community in a beautiful grass roots effort mobilized its resources, local businesses, and other entities to restore a neglected century old opera house in disrepair to the splendor of its heyday. The Ariel Theatre (really pronounced AR-ee-L) was partially restored for a grand re-opening concert in 1990.  Further renovations received a big boost in 1991 thanks to a major gift from friends and colleagues of Morris Haskins to honor his 50 years of service to Ohio Valley Bank.  In 1998, Meigs County native Ann Carson Dater, established and endowment to be used toward better musician pay, more rehearsal time, more soloists, professional recording, and children’s concerts.  In 2005, Mrs. Dater financed the purchase of the entire Ariel building to provide a permanent home for the symphony and to create a center for the performing arts.  For more detail, click on or
Ann Carson Dater, Lora Snow, and her daughter
         For years The Ohio Valley Symphony has opened its season in the Fall in Point Pleasant and ended it in spectacular fashion with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture in the Gallipolis City Park amidst fireworks over the majestic Ohio River shared by the states of Ohio and West Virginia.  This masterpiece, a memorial to the Napoleonic Wars and invasion of Russia, provides a great backdrop for our Independence Day celebration which commemorates the battles for freedom that cost so many lives in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 against the British.
        While negotiating for a prisoner exchange 200 years ago on September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key was stranded on a British ship during the all night bombardment of Ft. McHenry outside of Baltimore.  At dawn the flag at Ft. McHenry was still there!  This inspired him to write the poem and later lyric for what is known today as the Star Spangled banner.  This musical spectacle with fireworks in the Gallipolis City Park is similar to an accompaniment in a movie, allowing one to imagine being there during one of the battles or during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry.
        All of the sounds of the diverse instruments come together at the symphony in almost perfect unity and harmony under the direction of Maestro Ray Fowler…….the ultimate of teamwork.  Only one musician with the wrong note or the correct note a bit too soon or a fraction of a second late could damage the performance.

A Christmas Concert of the Ohio Valley Symphony
        The conductor, much like a quarterback in football, keeps every member of a team of up to 59 members at the Ariel in synchronization by keeping the rhythm with his baton and giving each musician with different instruments the necessary cues to start or stop.  With his gestures and body language, the conductor conveys the original intention, the emotion, and the mood of the composer whose genius, inspired creativity, and artistry combined the many diverse instrumental sounds into a harmonious masterpiece.

         It’s fun to locate the different instruments and their sounds in the large orchestra.  It duplicates such unique sounds as of sleigh bells and the horses plowing through the snow as well as the heavenly sounds of Christmas in its December performance……the strings, the wind instruments, percussion, piano, etc.    In March it brings to us in Gallipolis the sounds of Broadway, both oral and instrumental.  Some of its music is pops and some is classical.  Over the year we are treated to a great variety of music and great compositions. 

Maestro Ray Fowler
         There’s something very special about being actually there at the symphony that cannot be duplicated on a CD or a DVD or live on TV even if the sounds are perfectly recorded and transmitted.  The atmosphere between performers and audience is exciting.  The composition may reflect joy, sadness, struggle, emotion, romance, inner conflict, evil, or sometimes even a little foretaste of the true, the good, and the beautiful of heaven.  Let’s all make sure that we get there.  The members of the audience can feel as though they are part of the performance or that they are one of those who the composer intended to communicate to in his very first concert.

         A big bonus is the opportunity to attend a half hour Pre-Concert Chat at 7:15 pm with Tom Consolo, the assistant conductor and a performer himself in the symphony.  He enlightens us with information about the composer and gives us insights for understanding the musical compositions.  Occasionally the featured soloist attends and gives insights into his/her own performance.  They patiently answer our questions as well. 

         The gifted musicians of The Ohio Valley Symphony from seven states and other symphonies have devoted their childhood, their youth, and their adult lives to study often at the best schools and continual practice in order to master their particular instruments.  It involves years of hard work and sacrifice to develop their talents and share the fruits of it all for our enjoyment…….a relaxing evening with a respite from a tumultuous world and a hard week.

          These musicians don’t do it for the money because there’s not much there unless one becomes a superstar.  Most teach on the side to earn a living.  They do it because they love music and the immense satisfaction of sharing their music with us.  To them we owe a debt of gratitude.  Some of our citizens have enjoyed the Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra since its initial performance in 1990.

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